Saturday, July 4, 2009

Yellow Submarine (music)

The Beatles.

It seems unlikely that there is anything by the Beatles that can truly be labeled "forgotten." They are one of the most popular musical groups of the 20th Century and their work is still being repackaged today.  Yet there are several songs of theirs that are not known to the casual fan, or even to more serious Beatles lovers. And they're collected on the album Yellow Submarine.

This is not an album that is well-known in the Beatles' discography*.  There are several reasons for this. First, it's the soundtrack album for the movie -- a great animated film, of course, but from watching it most people might think the album was entirely made up of well-known Beatles songs.  And even if you look at the album, you discover that half of it is George Martin's background music for the movie, plus "Yellow Submarine" and "All You Need is Love," songs that are easily found in many other places.  There are really only four new songs on the album, and the only one that actually made it fully into the film was McCartney's "All Together Now," a catchy but slight tune sung at the end.  Most listeners would pass it by.

Yet the songs are respectable parts of the Beatles' output.  In addition to "All Together Now," they are:

  • "Hey Bulldog" -- a John Lennon composition with a growling vocal and heavy piano beat.  A sequence was filmed for the movie, but cut:


  • "Only a Northern Song" -- George Harrison's complaint about being the third-best songwriter in the group. Nothern Songs was Lennon and McCartney's publishing company and Harrison was a little peeved that they got money from his songs.  I also find it saying basically that people were reading too much into the Beatles songs -- they're only songs. "Only a Northern Song" was actually written for Sgt. Pepper, but cut in favor of "Within You Without You," which I don't care for much.


  • "It's All Too Much" -- another Harrison tune. This did make it into the movie toward the end, but in a truncated version of about two and a half minutes. The album version is over six minutes long.**  It's an unusual song, filled with feedback and organ.


At the time the album came out, I was not a fan of Harrison's songs, but I found the two here were the first that I really liked. 

The album sold, of course, and there have been CD reissues (of course). But only the most die-hard Beatles fans have copies. It's a shame, since the new songs on this are more than respectable members of the Beatles' canon.


*The All Music Guide calls it "inessential."

** There evidently was an eight-minute version.

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